Fired Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor is scheduled to stand trial on murder and manslaughter charges next April for the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
In a brief court appearance — Noor’s second since he was charged — Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance set an April 1, 2019, trial date, while denying a number of defense motions to dismiss the case and to exclude certain evidence. There existed enough evidence, she ruled, to bring Noor to trial for the death of the 40-year-old Australian woman in July 2017.
“What was in the defendant’s mind at the time of the incident can only be inferred at this point,” Quaintance said in court, reading from her order. “There is, however, sufficient evidence from which the state could argue that Mr. Noor fired without knowing what or who was outside the police cruiser.”
Defense attorney Thomas Plunkett declined to comment on Thursday’s hearing, and a spokesman with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a message.
Noor, who was fired from the department in March, hasn’t entered a plea on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, but his attorneys indicated that he would plead not guilty by self-defense. He remains free on bail.
His termination was appealed by the police union, but its grievance is on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case.
The defense argued for dismissal on the grounds that the intense media attention surrounding the case might undermine Noor’s right to a fair trial. The defense also argued that comments Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman made last winter rose to the level of prosecutorial misconduct and could taint prospective jurors.
But while Quaintance called Freeman’s comments lamenting the lack of evidence in the case “ill-advised,” she wrote in a separate order that “there is no indication that it has the potential to prejudice Defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
Prosecutors have argued that the shooting was the product of a “depraved mind, regardless of human life,” releasing excerpts of Noor’s training and psychological records that they say show he was unfit to be an officer.
The defense has said the results of psychological testing alone provide an incomplete picture of Noor, calling prosecutors’ release of those records intentionally “misleading.” Noor’s lawyers maintained that the ex-officer fired in response to a perceived threat, after Damond banged on the back of his police SUV, startling him and his partner, Matthew Harrity.
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SOURCE: Star Tribune, Libor Jany